Freedom House Strengths and Weaknesses

Freedom House’s methodology for scoring a country in Freedom in the World is based on a set of guidelines and questions that correspond to either political rights or civil liberties. Although the organization can be praised for creating a level basis that compares countries with widespread diversity, this may subject the ratings to bias or error.

What makes the Freedom in the World rating strong and credible is the organization’s rigorous research and analysis team that “use[s] a broad range of sources, including news articles, academic analyses, reports from nongovernmental organizations, and individual professional contacts.” The analysts are also bound to a detailed checklist that provides subcategories and questions to score for both political rights and civil liberties.

Freedom House’s analysis of Freedom in the World can be criticized for their bias towards liberal democratic societies. Their methodology holds all countries and territories to the same standards despite “geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.” Overlooking these factors creates bias because Freedom House operates out of the United States, inherently comparing all other countries and territories to the degree of such qualities possessed by the U.S.

Another weakness of the report is apparent when comparing a country or territory’s categorized scores to their rating and freedom status. Since the total score in each of the two categories (political rights and civil liberties) is comprised of broken down categories and sub-questions, a country that scores high in one category can make up for lost points in another category and still reflect a high total score. Additionally, the average of the PR and CL ratings are what formulate the country’s Freedom Status, broken up into three distinctions: free, partly free, and not free. A country that scored a 2.5 Freedom Rating and a country that scored a 1.0 Freedom Rating are both designated “Free” in status despite the gap in scores.

In conclusion, Freedom House offers a straightforward guideline to evaluate a country or territory on their degree of political rights and civil liberties but their methodology leaves room for bias to interfere.

3 thoughts on “Freedom House Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. I agree with this post because Freedom House attempts to fairly judge each country by the same standards but this makes it very easy to be biased. In order to give an annual global report regarding political rights and civil liberties it is necessary to judge several different aspects of each. Rightfully so, Freedom House does just that but not every category and part is equally represented in this report.

    Some of the questions and standards that are gone into detail do not apply to each country. For example when analyzing civil liberties, Freedom House studies “discrimination against minority groups and women”. There are several diverse cultural norms that, to some societies, are not considered discriminatory acts, but maybe to a more Westernized society, are. This ambiguity and lack of definitions, of words such as “discrimination”, leaves a lot of room for interpretation. This vagueness can lead to biases.

    Another ambiguous part of this Methodology is their explanation of their analysts. Freedom House says that more than 60 analysts and nearly 30 advisors are involved, but there are also 151 countries and 45 territories that are categorized in only a few groups in this annual report. The lack of direct knowledge and experience of some analysts could influence these reports. Each analyst gives each country and territory a score for each category which could lead to human error and bias. They could have predetermined beliefs regarding several cultures and this could easily be reflected in their scores. Parts such as “Trend Arrows” are “left to the discretion of the analyst”. How can a few analyst accurately rate or score an entire country?

  2. It is important to keep in mind that Freedom House believes that freedom is best achieved in liberal democratic societies. Based on this belief, all free countries could be called electoral and liberal, while some partly free countries are electoral, but not liberal. This is relevant because the scale for determining freedom is comparative to its counterparts; meaning a free country or territory experiences more freedom than a partly free area, not that it is completely free. Therefore, we cannot take the scales literally in terms of freedom; it is used as an estimated comparison system.
    The pros of the Freedom House methodology include its use of international comparison of countries and territories. Research has been collected since 1972, allowing for quantitative data points that can be used in further research. In addition, the questions used as guidelines for determining freedom cover an appropriate range of topics. I particularly like that civil liberties require more points than political because it shows the importance the individual has in its county or territory.
    Freedom House uses 60 analysts and 30 advisers for 151 countries and 45 territories. There is the possibility of subjectivity in answering the guideline questions. The evaluations of the countries/territories could be influenced by false media, western values, and limited sources.
    I think Freedom House uses enough of its resources to give people working in social sciences an idea of how the rest of the world is functioning and how the conflicts could be analyzed or handled.

  3. I really enjoyed your article especially because you point out the enigma of trying to have a completely standardized system (which in theory takes away the bias) actually ends up creating more bias. You mention how Freedom House created a system of measurement that doesn’t take into account “geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.” While abstractly this makes a lot of sense, in reality I believe it is much easier to be able to provide civil rights and liberties when you live in an ideal geographical location with a booming economy. One counter argument to this would be that when all the needed rights and liberties are provided by the government the economy can thrive the welfare of the citizens will improve. But I would counter that with the opposite point of view. What if the independent and dependent variables are switched so that in order to guarantee these inalienable rights there needs to be certain things, such as an economy, in place. Therefore not all countries should be judged by the same scale when measuring freedom.

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